It appeared out of nowhere on our beautiful Victorian stoop. I rounded the front of the building to my flat and caught its beady eyes peering at me from atop its perch by number 8. An owl. Not just any owl of course, but one that has been dunked in glitter and is now sat there looking like Liberace has opened a petting zoo.
The next day Sparkly the campest owl in Netley had been joined by a plastic ball of neon green “plant” hanging from our wrought iron fixture between the two flats. The day after, a modicum of taste arrived chez nous when some actual real life photosynthesising plants in terracotta pots appeared. I couldn’t help but wonder if we were going to be joined by a new addition each day until it necessitated hurdling over a herbaceous border to get home.
Thankfully the new arrivals stopped breeding and I can admit that in a certain light (i.e. Non sparkle inducing dusk) that the owl does look quite sweet. Fast forward a day or two and I find myself looking at my side and wondering… Do I want a sparkly owl, topiary in the shape of an ice cream cone, or some other eye-catching piece of toot to welcome me home?
The last time the Linley-Muns were all together in penguin suits was ahem years ago on my 18th birthday when we got all gussied up for the Miracles Valentines Ball. We’ll gloss over the fact that my date for the evening ditched me for my friend but it’s okay folks, he bought me the cassette of “If I Could Turn Back The Hands of Time” by R Kelly to make it up to me so thanks, whatever your name was. I remember your six pack and your eyebrows like Sam Eagle from The Muppets but your name escapes me.
Must have been love…
On Saturday after belated Christmas and birthday present swapping we bombed into the spa and whiled away time in the hot tub, playing sea monsters, and making sure diddy dot Nancy didn’t swallow all of the pool water whilst ‘wimming. After a lightning fast makeover with enough contour to rival Kim Kardashian, a pair of fat pants, and a hoick of Mary-Kate and Ashley to their rightful place up under my chin we slid into our chariot for the night – my resplendently filthy Yaris Hybrid complete with a massive dent in the bumper – and headed up to the main house to re-run the fun at the 21st annual Miracles Goodwood ball.
You can’t help but have that jaw dropping sense of “woah” when you see Goodwood House loom into view. Even if you know nothing about architecture (me) or embarrassingly little about history (also me) the hairs on the back of your neck will stand up when you round the corner on her. After guzzling a few glasses of fizz (not me, I was on call) and having a punt on the tombola, the Second Butler came and offered us the chance to go through the door marked ‘no entry’ to see the two Canaletto paintings of London produced in 1747, and the Don Quixote tapestries. Being allowed to slip away into the quiet of the ‘old house’ from the buzz of the party felt really special, one of those moments that will stick in the memory banks.
After the most delicious dinner it was time for the part of the evening I had secretly been dreading, THE AUCTION – click that link to relive the 2011 ball, aka teddybeargate. Thank heavens for being on call and therefore not totally boozed out of my box and so I made it through unscathed without spending a ridiculous amount of money on something ridiculous. Phew. A flutter at the casino, a go on the giant Scalextric track and a healthy dose of setting the world to rights over several mine swept bottles of wine (again, not me) and it was time to trip the light fantastic back to the car and head back to the hotel. Via the Goodwood Hill Climb route. In my Hybrid’s electric mode at 10 miles an hour.
I’m sure some of you probably think I’m making a huge deal out of my holiday and I know I am, but in less than a month I’m going to be officially homeless (for a smidge); meeting my friend’s new beautiful baby; spending the majority of three weeks alone in a foreign country in charge of a hire car; and reuniting with some dear people I haven’t seen in SEVENTEEN YEARS. We lost touch for a variety of reasons until last February when my beautiful, sassy, and smart ‘sister from another mister’ stalked me online and sent me an email. So far so real life Cosmo story, right?
I nearly fell off my chair when I received it.
Flashback to the nineties when this terribly exotic American family moved into our sleepy little village, I know you’re thinking exotic? American? Really? But they were from California, lived in a house with a ghost and the feisty matriarch Joyce was the first adult I heard say ‘fuck.’ I adored them, and more importantly so did my Mum. Joyce and her daughter Amy are and always have been, ballsy unafraid women who cut through the waffle and get right to the heart of the matter. I dare you to spend half an hour in their company without coming away feeling fired up and on top of the world.
I remember when the clan of women would gather at our house and G and I would be despatched to bed as the wine was opened. It was no good though because the raucous laughter that stormed its way upstairs would keep me awake and I’d lie there wishing I could be downstairs in amongst it, or at the very least that I’d grow up to have friends I could be equally raucous whilst drinking wine with.* I know Mum was keen for me to meet Amy because at 19 she had her head screwed on tight, had just graduated in Anthropology, oh and written a book about chatting up men. She was definitely on the approved ‘people for Al to aspire to be’ list. (Don’t tell her but she still is, and now she’s Dr Amy!)
Come back to the present, leaving my Crystal Tipps hair and penchant for tropical print clothing firmly in the past thankyouverymuch and next month I get to spend precious time in their company. I can’t wait, but at the same time there is a sense of trepidation and it’s not only based on having to navigate myself 230 miles from Boston Logan Airport to rural Vermont on the wrong side of the road. There’s a lot of residual sadness and confusion surrounding the late nineties thanks in part to raging hormones but mainly over losing Mum and Dad being ill and everything that goes along with going through those things.
It all feels a bit ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ wanker to say that I hope this trip changes me and I know I don’tneed changing, I guess I could just do with some revitalisation and refreshing and it feels quite poetic that the day I land back in the UK a no doubt dishevelled jetlagged mess is the same day I collect my keys for my new bachelorette pad and start the next chapter.
*I’m very glad to be able to say I’m inundated with friends like this and they’re happy to drink wine; beer; cider; prosecco; pimms; etc etc.
I needed* a new spring mac as I didn’t think my ‘slightly beaten up probably still smells of Fireball from Nashville’ denim jacket would quite cut it at my important London meetings tomorrow.
I decided to be brave and pop into GAP as I’d clocked a gorgeous short trench on the website and figured I could try it on and maybe one day slim down enough to be able to button it up and belt it and for the time being just rock the ‘no, it’s supposed to be undone, honest’ look.
Well knock me down with a feather it only flipping well fit… In the XL rather than the XXL I tried on first which totally swamped me. I could button it up, the sleeves were long enough, it was actually quite flattering, we were firing on all cylinders and I was happy to call it a success.
Then I clocked the massive red ‘SALE’ signs all over the place. Literally ALL over the place. I’d been so nervous about going in there to try and fit myself into their clothes without getting stuck in something, having to leave empty handed and disheartened due to large arse, or being laughed out of the door that I’d missed them all.
A little mooch through the sale rails and suddenly I had an armful of clothes and was bearing down on the tills thinking ‘I popped in for ONE THING’ swiftly followed by ‘but they’re sooooo pretty and yes I know I’ve got three maxi dresses but clearly I’m going to get so much wear out of them and anyway THEY’RE ON SALE AND THEY FIT’. Inside I was positively cartwheeling to the cashier.
When I was a teenager the one thing I desperately wanted (other than a smaller arse or a boyfriend OBVS) was a GAP t-shirt like everyone had. The problem being that I was too fat and had to make do with ‘close but no cigar’ t-shirts that may as well have had GIP written across the front because whichever way you looked at it they just weren’t right.
Fast forward to today and 33 year old me is now the proud owner of a maroon and white logo’d to the maximum GAP v-neck t-shirt and I love it. Sure I’ll only wear it in bed but each time I pull it over my head, teenage me will be shrieking in delight. I came home weighed down by bags but happy to find the most ginormous parcel on the table. The *ahem* seven dresses I’d ordered from Lindy Bop and clearly forgotten about. Oops.
I’ve got you a present, it’s related to your trip and I know you’ll love it.
Big words from a man I’d never met in person and had only been speaking to for a week. He seemed sure that he had my personality pegged enough after reading my pixels on his screen to be able to buy me something he knew I was going to love. It was intriguing to say the least and I confess to spending a percentage of my work day staring out of the window wondering what it could be.
It turned out to be a very thoughtful gift, a well thumbed copy of ‘Cape Cod’ by Henry David Thoreau which he spotted and made him think of me. Terribly romantic! In my head of course it was a dusty old bookshop with sunlight streaming through the windows and when he saw it his eyes lit up with a twinkle at finding the perfect gift for his perfect woman. Hashtag ego much? Him giving it to me with a warning that it’s a ‘bit heavy going and most people struggle with it’, before the assurance that he ‘managed it easily’ and the challenge that I ‘should give it a go andsee how you get on’ diminished the sparkle a bit. So I polished it again by schooling him on Thoreau’s history with a big gracious smile whilst internally licking my finger and chalking up an air point.
Having been so nervous about going on a date I thought I was going to puke over his (bad) shoes I did an admirable job of keeping it easy breezy and jovial even in the face of the most intense man. Ever. He didn’t break eye contact with me once, not once, which made the hairs on the back of my neck tingle and not in a sexy ‘god you’re attractive’ way, more in an ‘oh god I hope he doesn’t kill my rabbit’ vibe.
The staring led to what felt like a one sided game of eye spy as I resorted to pointing out interesting features in the bar.
Ooh look! That chair looks a bit like a church pew…
I know, I’m a stunning conversationalist. The topic then rolled around to his alma mater that he was booted out of for flunking which triggered off a reaction in him so visceral that it felt like he should find the nearest tree and do some primal scream therapy. Instead he launched into the sweariest loudest mega rant about his parents that made people stare and left me wishing I could hide. Or find a ’66 Ford Thunderbird and a cliff…
This is something I have been mulling over for a long time however it’s only just started to form into a decision I feel capable of making.
This is going to be my last post on Long Tall Ally for the forseeable future, possibly forever. God that sounds so dramatic like I’m about to hitch up my skirts and flounce off into the sunset with one hand pressed to my bosom and the other against my forehead.
I’m not. I’m just not going to be updating here for a variety of reasons. I’ve never been what I would call a ‘good’ blogger, one who devotes time to blogging and who cultivates their site into a place people want to be. In fact I tend to ignore this place until I feel guilty enough to post, bash something up and then go back to ignoring it. Sure I’ve had dreams of trying to turn this site into something bigger but dreams are just that, and actually when your heart isn’t really in it at the end of the day they don’t tend to materialise out of thin air.
I started writing Long Tall Ally when I was going through a massive change in my life and I needed some sort of outlet to be able to deal with the feelings. Only it’s become clear that whilst this outlet has become a way of getting my feelings out I’ve spent precious little time actually dealing with them, or y’know feeling them. It’s time for me to focus on me for a while and sort out some stuff that has been going on for far too long.
So it’s with a sense of sadness that I sign off and say goodbye. I’m going to keep this site up just in case I want to come back to it one day so you’ll be able to delve through the archives if you want to. Thank you to every single person who has read my wittering, commented, shared posts or interacted with me in any way. Losing a person’s worth of weight isn’t something that you can do alone and I’ve been very lucky to have been surrounded by wonderful people, it’s now time to get myself healed a bit, quit living in the past and finally slay some demons so I can be as wonderful to them.
So, how does it feel in the aftermath of a crash and burn?
I’m not back to full strength by a long chalk but after some ‘me’ time over the weekend curled up in bed sleeping, reading, and staring at the wall as well as time with family and a couple of bracing walks along the beach I’m definitely feeling better than I was on Thursday. I still feel dead behind the eyes and my limbs are heavy as anything but my facial muscles are capable of smiling again which is definite progress.
I feel exposed though.
I’m fully clothed so don’t get any visions of me flashing my pants at you all but returning to the office the day after you’ve hit your depressive nadir and spent the morning snotting all over the place before throwing your hands in the air and saying you can’t cope leaves you feeling rather vulnerable indeed.
I felt awkward walking down the stairwell with the guy who ended up going to the Libya thing without me, there was an elephant in the room and I had to bite my tongue to stop myself apologising. Apologising for what exactly? For having depression. Ridiculous. It’s not like I want to have this after all.
So many people have held their hands up to me since Thursday and said “yep, totally know how you feel”. Some have done it on social media, some have done it privately, some have even done it face to face, but every single one has been very brave. It’s a crying shame that people are described as being “brave” for talking about mental health but for the time being that’s how it is. For the time being. Because the conversation about mental health isn’t going to go away.
In closing, to the person who said I should be less open about this so that I can attract a man?
Fuck that noise. Seriously, get fucked.
It doesn’t care that it’s your birthday and you’re supposed to have a lovely day. It doesn’t care that you’ve somehow managed to crawl out of bed and make yourself look presentable to get through another day in the office. When it strikes it doesn’t give a fuck what you’ve got planned, or what you should be doing. All it cares about it swiping the rug out from underneath you feet leaving you wondering how on earth you’re going to get back up.
Depression made me sit and sob at my desk all this morning. It made me lose all of the joy in being sent heaps of cards, messages, presents and well wishes. It made, oh who am I kidding, is making me want to crawl into bed and pull the duvet over my head for the forseeable future. I’m currently battling with the greatest wish to cancel my weekend plans to see my family, because who on earth wants a weeping thirty two year old hanging about like a wet weekend? The drinks with work mates to celebrate next week? Hanging precariously in the balance due to the soul sucking depressive state I’m currently in. Even the long awaited weekend in Paris with some of my favourite girls next weekend had a moment of ‘well I could go, but I could spend the weekend lying in bed staring at the wall’ wobbliness. I know that in the grand scheme of things this will pass and I’ll go back to feeling normal and not like I have a ten ton weight pressing down on my shoulders whilst wading through treacle but for the moment it’s really bloody tough indeed.
It’s really scary to go in to your boss and say ‘You know what? I don’t want to go to a seminar on Libya tonight and it’s not because I’m being a Princess about having to work on my birthday, it’s because actually I feel like shit and am having enough difficulty in staying upright let alone getting to London and not weeping openly in front of a room full of industry colleagues”. Add to that the guilt (oh the guilt!) wrought upon me by this fucker depression that I’m letting everyone down and I’m useless at my job and a waste of space and may as well just quit because I’ve ruined things. What a sorry damn state to be in. To his credit he was really good, he didn’t tell me to cheer up or that I was being silly, both of which I berate myself with when things are like this anyway. Instead he very quietly told me it was okay, that he was sorry that I was so low and that the Libya thing wasn’t a big deal at all.
Some people will probably be wondering why I’m being such a buzzkill on my birthday when I should be posting about the wonderful cards and presents I’ve received, but here’s the thing… I made a pledge to keep the conversation going about mental health to remove some of the stigma and for me, admitting that actually I’m wiped out with depression at the moment on what should be a really nice day is a very important part of that.
It’s like I said earlier, depression doesn’t care who you are, how much or how little you have, or what you should be doing, when it wants to rear its ugly head it does, and bugger the consequences.